Atlético welcome Osasuna to the Vicente Calderón on Sunday for La Liga action following yet another record-breaking performance at the midweek versus Académica de Coimbra in the Europa League.
The battle between the two sides on opposite poles in the standings gets underway at the Vicente Calderón at 19:45 CET.
Rojiblanco supporters will be hoping to cruise to a triumph this time around after a suspenseful-though-rewarding batch of six straight wins by a one-goal margin–many of them heart-stopping and at the last minute.
With several rivals for a Champions League berth likely to drop points this round, Atleti can distance themselves further from the pack by picking up all three up for grabs on Sunday.
A 25 point total would create a seven-point gap between us and our closest opponents in tow: third-place Málaga.
Voracious striker Radamel Falcao, who surprisingly hasn’t scored against Osasuna yet, will be a good bet to find the back of the net on Sunday.
Atlético’s ‘Golden Tiger‘ has more league goals (nine) than our opponents do altogether in the present term (seven) and averages a goal per game in his lair on the banks of the Manzanares River.
Should he get one past Osasuna goalkeeper Andrés, the 26-year-old will extend his marvelous streak of consecutive appearances with a goal to 11.
On the subject of streaks, los Colchoneros are currently riding their best one in history with 21 games unbeaten and 11 straight wins.
Atleti boss Diego Simeone, who surpassed the late Tomislav Ivić’s record of 20 games without a defeat at the helm of the Red and Whites from the 1990/91 campaign, modestly deflected credit for the club’s outstanding run.
“It’s because of the players,” the Argentine tactician told reporters on Saturday.
“There’s a mutual respect and the players have interpreted the path to follow the best way possible.”
However, ‘El Cholo’ hit the brakes on all the enthusiasm and turned poet.
“Everything that is being said right now really isn’t determinative,” he said.
“Stories are beautiful when you read them in books after time has passed. Meanwhile, they must be written and lived out on a daily basis. I’m not very sentimental. I like concrete things, the strong stuff, always looking ahead and time will tell whatever it has to.”
The early chapters of the tale of this season have seen a number of main characters given Cholo’s heavy rotational policy in UEFA competition thus far.
While this allows the squad to enter the weekends well-rested, solid performances in Europe make line-up selections a bit of a headache for Simeone and his coaching staff.
“It hurts when I leave out Costa, Raúl García, Koke, Emre…”, the 42-year-old admitted.
“We’re at a stage in which, each time we have to put together an XI, the team gives you the opportunity to get the best characteristics out of each player, but it gets difficult, because everyone is doing well.”
Turkish midfield engine Arda, who was unable to travel to San Sebastián last weekend, has recovered from his ankle sprain a little sooner than expected and is back in Atleti’s match selection, though he could be designated to watch from the stands come game-time as El Cholo handed in a 19-man squad for this fixture.
A nicked up Diego Costa, goalscorer on Thursday against our Portuguese opponents Académica, could also be Simeone’s throw-away as he has been experiencing some soreness in training.
A trio of former Atlético B players will not be taking part in this encounter. Jorge Pulido, Joel and Domingo Cisma were not included in Cholo’s list.
José Luis Mendilibar’s men will be after their first points away from home, as they have lost all four times they have left Pamplona.
The task will be all the more difficult for los Rojillos without starting full-backs Marc Betrán (injured) and Damià (suspended).
“We’re not doing well and we’re worried,” Mendilibar confessed in the pre-game press conference.
“Positive results and seeing yourself a little higher gives you confidence. When you’re doing well things tend to go in your favour and when you’re doing bad, it’s the complete opposite.”
Here’s to hoping the Osasuna boss’ words ring true on Sunday.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luis, Sìlvio, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Emre
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Diego Costa
Osasuna match selection:
Goalkeepers: Andres Fernández, Asier Riesgo
Defenders: Arribas, Echaide, Lolo, Nano, Oier, Rubén
Midfielders: Cejudo, Annan, Armenteros, Lamah, Puñal, Raoul Loe, Timor
Forwards: Joseba Llorente, Nino, Kike Sola
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz